There are many burning questions coming out of the independence debate, not least of which is what impact an independent Scotland will have on UK immigration policy. In fact if you listen in to people’s conversations on the tube or in the pub you may well have heard people joke about Hadrian’s Wall being rebuilt and needing a visa to cross the border.
Of course in reality neither of those things are likely to happen (we hope!), but a ’Yes’ vote will certainly provide Scotland with the powers to make very definite decisions about their own immigration policy and initial indications certainly suggest that they will want to move away from the current stance that the UK Government has taken to batten down the hatches and reduce the numbers of migrants coming in to the UK.
Historically, Scotland has always had a different demographic to the rest of the UK with its population growing at a slower rate and average earnings generally being at a lower rate than for the South of England for example. They therefore have a clear economic rationale for growing their population and particularly their working age population. This means that if given the chance they are likely to want to attract skilled working age migrants into Scotland.
“We will welcome people who want to come to work and live in Scotland”*
So what could the potential changes look like?
Whilst it’s clear that an independent Scotland would probably still operate a Points Based System similar to that currently in the UK, it is evident from their draft policies that they are likely to lower financial maintenance thresholds and minimum salary levels for entry in order to align them to Scottish average wages and cost of living.
It also looks likely that they will re-introduce the Post Study work visa (that was closed down in the UK in April 2012) in order to encourage more talented people from around the world to further their education in Scotland and to then potentially be able to stay on and work after graduation. The aim here is to promote increased contributions to the local economy and community diversity.
Scotland will continue as a full member of the EU, meaning that Scottish borders will remain open to EU nationals (including British nationals) who wish to exercise their Treaty rights in Scotland.
They will also remain part of the Common Travel Area with the rest of the UK and Ireland which means that there will be no border checks between Scotland and England.
“A multi-cultural Scotland will be a cornerstone of the nation on independence.”*
There will of course be a new Scottish citizenship with British citizens who habitually reside in Scotland upon independence are being considered Scottish citizens. Citizenship by descent will also be available to individuals who have a parent or grandparent who qualifies for Scottish citizenship. In addition, for those who can demonstrate a connection to Scotland and who have spent at least 10 years living in Scotland will be able to apply for Scottish citizenship, as will migrants on qualifying visas.
Certainly for foreign students and skilled migrants then it would appear that the proposed policies are looking very positive, with lower financial criteria to be met when applying for certain types of visa and the reintroduction of the post-study work ‘link’ between study and employment. What this means for the UK will remain to be seen, but it could perhaps see Scotland give the rest of the UK a run for its money when competing for global business and global talent in future.
We wait then with baited breath for the outcome of the referendum on Thursday…..
If you need any advice on how these changes may affect your company, pre or post the decisiion, please contact us.
*Source: Scotland’s Future – http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2013/11/9348/11